Top Movies of the Month

And today it’s been exactly four weeks since I returned to the home.  I’ve spent most of that time lounging and languishing, as one is wont to do after a fairly brutal confrontation with a semester of higher education.
It’s an important defensive measure- for the preservation of sanity- to do your utmost to expel all of that malignant and intrusive learning from your head so it can be once more empty and happy and light as a balloon.

Yep, summer is a time for the easy pleasures.  Easy pleasures like lovely films; some complicated and thought-provoking, others simple enough that you can let them wash right over you like a summer breeze or murmuring ocean tide.  And of course, for the few days that your remote is out of commission, there will always be the guilty recourse of youtube rendezvous with Say Yes to the Dress, Season 14 (Grow a spine and tell your entourage that they and their opinions can go to hell).
Anyway, these were the happy viewing of a few of my quiet evenings… when I wasn’t rooting for lace over tulle or ballgown over mermaid or whatever.

Love in the Afternoon: Audrey Hepburn, Maurice Chevalier, and Gary Cooper? Yes please.  Romantic, farcical, lovely, and now I want an anklet. Or perhaps a personal klezmer band. Or perhaps a father who’s a personal investigator. On second thought, scratch that last, terrible idea.  Actually, I would be quite satisfied with Audrey’s ermine coat.  What’s quite astonishing about this movie is that for once Maurice Chevalier is not the creepy old man.  No, that honorific goes to Gary Cooper, the December to Audrey’s May.  Honestly… it’s rather a stretch.

Paris When it Sizzles: I’m a snob. I was not expecting to like this film. It looked so inane.  But… I love it.  It was joyously and unashamedly silly. Granted, Audrey’s once again playing the innocent ingenue next to an older, gruffer, experienced-er man (Oh my, these male directors are so predictable)- but William Holden isn’t the worst (glowing praise, no?) and both of them seem to be having a good time of it.  It’s like a cute roller coaster or small fair.  Just sit back and accept the entertainment, it’s an easily digestible tidbit.

In a Lonely Place: Standard Bogart fare. And Gloria Grahame too. She tends to do a good job playing opposite gangsters and jerks, this being no exception.  The way in which this is a refreshing exception: for once, being a jerk does not get Humphrey Bogart the girl.  I suppose there was Casablanca too, but Ingrid Bergman was totally ready to drop Victor for Rick. It was more Rick’s own volition, the act of patriotically rejecting Ilse and her plane for two.  Art Smith plays trash writer Humphrey Bogart’s agent, Mel Lippman.  More specifically, he plays the old guy who must be lovable enough to make the audience care about the relationship of his friends, the two leads, as neither are exactly sympathetic.  It totally works, the man is adorable.

Red Dragon: I’m not the biggest Edward Norton fan but something about Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter just tickles me. Is that weird?  The big bad, serial killer ‘The Tooth Fairy’ was also fairly alright. And played by Ralph Fiennes, usually a plus.  Of course it’s not up to Silence of the Lambs standards…
Just watch it without thinking about Silence of the Lambs to keep your perspective.  Even if it was an unnecessary addition to the franchise, engendered solely by a hunger for continued profits after the success of the original… it’s a good movie with good parts.
Can you tell I’m still trying to convince myself?
Maybe just watch Rosemary’s Baby or Eyes Without a Face.

Children Who Chase Lost Voices/Journey to Agartha: An anime by director Makoto Shinkai (not the notorious Miyazaki, I’m running out of his) seemingly inspired by the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, but with less music, more monsters, and a helpful cat friend (Do you think the helpful cat friend is going to survive the film? Are you still so naive?).  The people of Agartha, the underworld, refer to the people visiting from the surface world as ‘topsiders’ throughout the English version. Of course I kept getting flashes of the Sperry shoe.

Cold Mountain: Heyyy, this was excellent.  Forget about the glorious cinematic romance between tray-carrying Nicole Kidman and shy-boy Jude Law (not completely, because it’s pretty nice) and focus on Renee Zellweger’s Ruby Thewes. She’s boisterous and funny, unsentimental and practically matter-of-fact.  The principal love story here may be modeled on the ‘English Patient’ model (you know, swooping, expansive, encompassing, defying all odds…. big?), but it’s the supporting cast that makes this film.  Because in many ways it’s an odyssey and we all know the people Odysseus meets during his travels are by far the most fascinating part of his journey.  You can only watch someone sail around in a struggle bus (struggle boat?) for so long.  in the case of this movie, a struggle South.

Closer: Natalie Portman was one of the valuable supporting cast in Cold Mountain.  In this film, she’s one of the main four. My favorite of the main four, in fact.  Oh hey, Jude Law’s here too. It’s a reunion.  But anyway, yes, my favorite of the main four.  Not necessarily saying a ton because each of them is rather more flawed than the average specimen of humanity. This film may answer the eternal question on everyone’s lips: “How many ways can a group of four heterosexual people pair off?”  (Answer: Way more than expected, what were these characters thinking?)  It would be more brutal if it were less implausible.  The layers of deceit are kind of awe-inspiring (still they have nothing on Dangerous Liaisons, but the kids do try).

Spotlight: I’m going to bring up a problem with this film first- always best to get these things out of the way.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the Boston Globe. Their sudoku and crosswords save girls like me every day.  But this movie did give them a tidal wave of praise and credit for essentially single-handedly conquering the issue of child predation in the Catholic Church, not all of which was completely deserved (to be fair, that’s a tall order).  The men assisting them from outside of the Globe are portrayed as standoffish, strange, or morally negligent.  I’m not sure why this decision was made, but I don’t understand the choice.  In the grand scheme of things, it’s an excellent movie. Suspenseful, troubling, engaging, all that good stuff. A movie that will be remembered always as the first time I was able to get a glimpse of why some people appreciate Mark Ruffalo.

Henry & June: Pussywillow is a ridiculous nickname, but a great plant.  The little sleekly fluffy toe-buds are so pettable, like rabbit’s feet but less like a decapitated dead animal.  Maria de Medeiros is excellent as Anais Nin. Fred Ward is pretty okay as Henry Miller.  Uma Thurman as June Miller is overdone and clunky.  A lot of that may be a result of that terribly contrived and grating accent.  Thankfully, most of the movie is about what goes on in her absence.  On the spectrum of literary history and sex, it leans a bit further toward the latter.  If you’re the kind of person who appreciates trivia, be aware that the NC-17 rating was created for this film.  It will make you wonder why this society of ours raises us to feel uncomfortable watching sex scenes when our parents are around, but completely fine with sitting next to them while bloody gory violence is shown on the screen.

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